Employer branding: What commitment and engagement need
In March, I gathered with our European agency colleagues from the International Public Relations Network (IPRN) in Warsaw. On site and online attendees discussed one main topic: employer branding and relations. Agencies from Italy, Portugal, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany presented their local market situation and challenges as well as employer branding strategies. What are the best practices? What can we learn from each other?
Building a strong brand
Employer branding is the image and reputation that an organization creates as an employer. It encompasses everything from the company culture and values to the benefits and perks offered to employees. “Your employer brand should reflect your organization's unique identity and value proposition, and should be consistent across all touchpoints,” says Arne Borgards, General Manager of JP KOM and responsible for Employer Relations.
The concern of the exchange in Warsaw: it’s difficult to find and bind employees these days, and a lot of the traditional offers and benefits seem not to be enough. The reasons and approaches are manifold and sometimes country or generation specific. Still, we identified three main pillars that make a strong employer brand:
1. Financial package: Provide employees with monetary benefits. Besides an attractive salary, offers can include monthly rail tickets, food vouchers, perks in leasing e-bikes, employee pensions, bonuses according to score cards etc.
2. Behavior: Establish and live a set of values. Think about what you want to stand for as a company. How do you work in a team and on projects? What leadership style do you follow? What ethical decisions guide you? Name your values and act on them: in everyday work, together with the customers and with the world around you.
3. Communication: Talk about your brand and listen to employees’ needs. Clearly convey what you stand for in internal and external communication. Be consistent in your messaging, reach every single employee and provide attractive content for potential employees. Possible channels include social intranets, meetings, events, newsletters, websites and social media.
This is supported by the theory of Reputation Management: The Corporate Image reflects the Corporate Identity. The core of that is the Corporate Personality which is expressed by Corporate Behavior, Corporate Design and Corporate Communication.
Tips and trends
Although our European partner agencies follow similar strategies, some stand out with their approaches. For example, in Germany, additional benefits compensating COVID19 or inflation are possible due to national tax advantages, and benefits like Christmas bonuses have a long tradition. Our Polish partner agency Public Dialog relies on commissions proportionate to the client's budget which few agencies offer.
In terms of behavior, there is a worldwide trend towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Maurice Jansen from Wepublic in the Netherlands explains: “The younger generation wants an employer who stands up for topics like sustainability and diversity. Young professionals demand proof that an employer participates in CSR activities inside and outside the company.” This means also not working for questionable organizations or assignments, and supporting a tolerant work atmosphere. Jansen has received great feedback for the latter: “We started doing workshops about ‘unconscious bias’ – bias we hardly notice in us, e. g. against people who are different than us – which creates awareness for diversity in our teams. Diverse teams provide a broader scope of issues.”
The Italian agency INC shows how the younger generation is targeted with attractive media content. In specialized social media rubrics, they present their team members as “real persons” who have passions in and out of work, tips and scenarios on the working fields and communicate on special international trending topic occasions. What drives the agency is clearly described on their career page.
To sum up, values, benefits, symbols and actions make a strong employer brand! Practise what you preach: that makes your company authentic. Be as transparent as possible and go with the time. Educate yourself and your teams and be open to new working models and creative content.
How JP KOM shapes the employer brand
- Values. What does JP KOM stand for? The values that guide us a team are Sharing knowledge, Freedom, Openness and Teamwork. These values have been formulated in workshops by our employees in the past. Customers as well as job applicants can find them on our website. It’s all about transparency!
- Symbols and storytelling. A renowned symbol of ours that we use on our website and social media is the Red Sofa, evoking the famous “founder myth”. Our founder Jörg Pfannenberg likes to reminisce about the beginning of the agency: working late and sometimes sleeping on the red sofa. We use this image in our job ads together with the slogan “Take a Seat on our Sofa”. It still stands in our entry hall and every new employer is asked to take a picture on it for our career website. This way, we keep it authentic.
- Unique characteristic. At some point or another, people who deal with our agency, will stumble across one of our unique characteristics: our toolbox for concept and realization of communication strategies. The strategy tools function as an accelerator of consulting inside the agency. It’s written and researched by two former employees and our founder, and given to everyone who is new in the agency. Of course, we also use it in external communication, e. g. in our “Tool of the Month” section on Instagram, and in customer workshops to generate issues, benefits, channels etc.
- Education and benefits. Our benefits model is built upon special education offers, financial add-ons and team spirit. Employees can profit from two training streams: one for young professionals (to learn the basics of communication and media) and one for all employees in the agency (e. g. with regular Lunch and Learns, seminars and workshops). Financial extras include gym memberships, a full extra salary at Christmas time, company pension, food vouchers, and rail cards.
- Creative recruiting and CSR activities. When we are looking for new team members, we work together with recruiting companies and use our contacts to German universities. We also use more unconventional recruiting formats like “Stell mich ein” (“Hire me”) – a speed dating recruiting event in which you see each applicant for 5 min., so 12 people in one hour. We are openly committing to CSR: we are an EcoVadis member and certified with a bronze medal, we have signed the Charta der Vielfalt (the Charter of Diversity) as well as a local initiative for sustainability.